Taking the Country Out of a Girl
by Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2013
Looking back, I see a number of things that happened in the fourth grade that would forever change my life and guarantee that I would never ever be the same. That was the year I began to write — to deal with the pain of growing up and change. Growing up is tough and one of my many flaws is the inability to deal with changes thrown at me from all directions. Additionally, I didn’t have anyone who would listen to me — they were all so busy — so I began to scribble to myself.
· I saw President Harry Truman. My daddy lifted me up on his shoulders so I could see the man who was the topic of many conversations in our diverse political family. I don’t remember what the President said on his whistle-stop in Muskogee, Oklahoma that day, but I knew it was a big event and we knew he’d beat that New Yorker with the movie-star mustache — Thomas Dewey
· Mother sent me out to trick or trick — alone and on the wrong date. She was good in political predictions, but with calendars and holidays not so much.
There was the big move. I went from being a happy country kid
in pigtails and overalls, sitting cross legged in the grass of a one-room
school yard eating fried ham on a biscuit surrounded by giggling friends to being
the friendless new girl at a city school. I hardly recognized myself — decked out in a starched scratchy
dress, with curls all over my head and sock-eating saddle oxfords. Somewhat
shy, but terribly unsure of myself in this strange new world, I would stand in school’s
cafeteria line with dread. Clutching a quarter to purchase lunch, I was never
sure of what I would have to eat. There were some weird-looking food available,
but I was afraid to ask about the ingredients, lest my country-bumpkin
ignorance be uncovered. The exposure to mysterious culinary fare such as shredded
carrots in green Jell-O and tuna casseroles educated my taste buds, somewhat, and
helped me overcome a fear of putting things in my mouth that might bite back.
However, there was the unending challenge of finding a seat at a table with a friendly
face and someone who would talk to me. No wonder I often had stomach cramps.
· I learned that some teachers can be unkind — even junkyard dog mean — and seemingly delight in embarrassing you in front of everyone. There was also the discovery of sweet revenge when your eight-month-pregnant mother confronts the teacher and her principal with irrefutable evidence that your book report was 100 percent correct, forcing Mrs. [W—-] to apologize in front of the class in which she had humiliated me. Always document your sources.
· I tried to find a “nice” girl to invite to go to the state fair with mother and me. That lesson taught me how to use all my wits. I went to my favorite auntie for help because I did not have a clue as to what “nice” meant or what kind of girl it was that my mother wanted me to have for a friend. How can you tell nice girls from the others when you are only eight years old? I did not like girls who pinched you when their parents weren’t looking, but that hadn’t happened since I was three. I did not like crybabies, but had seen none of those in my fourth-grade classes either. There was one smarty-pants who thought she knew all the answers (but she did not), and who under no circumstances would I consider nice. I had crossed her off my invisible-ink list from the beginning. Thank goodness, there was another new girl in my class. She was quiet and shy, too, and I finally gathered up enough nerve to ask her if she would like to go to the fair with us. She accepted the invitation and more than met my mother’s approval. Mission accomplished.
Just after Christmas, my
baby sister finally arrived — but she was two boys. Somehow,
the name that we had picked out for her — Cynthia Elise — was not going to work. What
was I to do with twin brothers who couldn’t walk, talk, play or keep their milk
down? The smell of molasses and goat milk still haunts me. Those ingredients turned
out to be the magical formula that finally worked for the twins’ fragile
· My big sister came to live with us again. She stayed with our paternal grandmother during the war and had been allowed to remain there until now. With the arrival of the twins, mother obviously needed all the help she could get. Sis moved in, with tons of her stuff, completely took over my room, and became alpha dog. She was 15 and knew everything. Everyone claimed she was very smart. I wouldn’t know. No one asked for my opinion about anything. However, Curly (my cat) and I continued to play tickle games under the covers at night, even after sister squealed on us.
· I caught the mumps. I was promptly shipped off to my maternal grandparents — where I was warm and happy, especially when I could snuggle up to grandma in her warm bed. When I recovered, I went back to my country school where we played Annie-Annie Over and ate our biscuit sandwiches. I no longer had to worry about cafeterias, strange food, mean teachers and whether the girls were nice or not.